Bloomsbury Russian Literature and Art Auction

Bloomsbury in New York is proud to offer an exceptional selection of Russian books, letters, manuscripts, periodicals, photographs, prints, posters, drawings and paintings from the early 20th century. The collection reflects both the Silver Age and Soviet period with important art and literature that somehow survived those repressive regimes. The evolution of Symbolism, Acmeism, Futurism, Suprematism, Constructivism and other modern literary and art movements can be traced in this extensive offering of literary and artistic work by some of the greatest masters of modern time.

One of the highlights from the imperial era is a large collection of cartes de visite, as well as cabinet and wire photographs of four decades of the Romanov family ($25,000-$35,000). Two rare literary works by Tsar Nicholas II’s bi-sexual uncle, the Grand Duke Konstantin offer a glimpse into the private social life of the imperial family ($5,000-$8,000). Also included are complete runs of the beautiful journals Apollon ($30,000-$40,000), Vesy ($30,000-$40,000) and Zolotoe runo ($50,000-$70,000). Stolitsa i usadba provides the last gasp of the Russian aristocracy on the eve of the Revolution; the issue devoted to the Royal Family included here was confiscated by the Bolsheviks ($50,000-$70,000).

The legendary Leo Tolstoy is represented by a rare first edition of one of his plays inspired by his exasperation over a performance of Chekhov’s Uncle Vanya ($1,000-$2,000). There is a presentation copy of a collection of Chekhov’s short stories that the author gave a waiter at the Grand Hotel in Moscow ($20,000-$30,000). Other signed books include rare works by Benois, Erenburg, Kuprin, Sologub and Zorgenfrei.

Autograph album An extraordinary autograph album owned by the niece of the doomed poet Gumilev touches on the sad fate of many Russia’s greatest writers. Akhmatova, Annenskii, Blok, Kuzmin, Meierkhold, Remizov and Voloshin all wrote in her book ($150,000-$200,000). But aesthetic experimentation in Russia often led to censorship, exile, imprisonment and even death. Akhmatova, Gumilev and Meierkhold were all victims of Bolshevik and Stalinist oppression.

Russian graphic art of the Silver Age reached its zenith in Sergei Diaghilev’s consolidation of art, music and dance—the Ballets Russes. Both this company and the famous Russian cabaret Chauve-souris are well represented. Diaghilev and Nijinsky autographed a rare Ballets Russes programme from their American tour ($25,000-$35,000). Benois decorated a letter with an exquisite scene from Swan Lake ($6,000-$8,000). There are also several costume designs by Benois and a handsome set design by his son Nicola for Revizor [The Inspector General] ($30,000-$50,000).

Other art reflects the extraordinary variety and depth of Russian visual expression. Two classic landscapes by Shilder and von Klever contrast beautifully with modern examples by Khudyakov and Vasiliev. The versatile Sudeikin painted a delightful Pierrot in gouache as well as a witty group of commedia dell’arte dolls in oil ($10,000-$15,000). Puni painted several delightful Suprematist figures in gouache on postcards and designed and assembled an extraordinary artist’s book of collage, gouache and cut letters. There are also fine prints and posters and paintings by such important modern Russian artists as Chekhonin, Dobuzhinsky, Goncharova, Kaplan, Larionov, Lebedev, Lissim, Pozhedaev, Ryback and Sudeikin.

Viewings of the Russian Literature and Art sale will be held on Friday 24 October- Saturday 25 October, and Monday 27 October-Tuesday 28 October from 10:00 am until 5:00 pm. The auction will begin promptly at 10:00 am on Wednesday 29 October.

Bloomsbury Auctions is the world’s leading auction house for rare books and works on paper and is headquartered in London with salerooms in New York and Rome.

Auction info